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This sounds like Tricky, Portishead, Primal Scream (circa Vanishing Point) DJ Shadow, Chemical Bros, Bentley Rhythym Ace and Leftfield all fighting in a recording studio. In a good way. It's fairly certain that Richard Fearless uses a bit more than caffeine / nicotene to stimulate his mind whilst recording. Perhaps that's why (I've heard that) this album is fantastic to listen to whilst bombed out of your head. The first time I heard anything by DIV was at a festival. Their tripped-out melange of electronica and guitars was perfect for lolling around drunkenly in the sun. Whilst much of this album is pretty innovative, there are occasions when it starts to feel a little formulaic. You sometimes find yourself crying out for a breakbeat, but that probably just means you're too sober. The highlight for me is 'Dirge', which begins with a simple guitar strum, and becomes increasingly more complex as the song progresses, with a new element being introduced every eight bars or so, including an angelic sounding female vocal reminiscent of Beth Gibbons. It's a simple, and frequently used idea taken just that little bit further with excellent results. It's compelling listening as, not only are you drawn in by the cumulative effect of layer upon layer of noise, but also it becomes a challenge to identify the new sounds as they're introduced. Other good points include cameos from Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid (on Broken Little Sister), Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie (on the laid back Soul Auctioneer) and Iggy Pop (on the excellently dark Aisha). In the same way that Moby's 'Play' is good ambient dance music that you wouldn't particularly want to dance to, this offering is perhaps best listened to whilst stationary. Preferrably horzontal.
Lord knows why I bother writing these opinions, because, as per usual, no- one ever reads them. But, as the Beautiful South once said- i'll carry on regardless. Death In Vegas started life as 'Dead Elvis', but had to change their name after some unwanted attention from the King himself's estate. So, instead, they called their debut album Dead Elvis, and re-named themselves 'Death In Vegas'. 'Dead Elvis' was OK, not brilliant, except for the excellent single 'Dirt' (think 'Dirge', but faster and more groovy), but it could never match the dizzying heights that this album reaches. 'Dirge' features Dot Alison, and stays pretty much the same until about 2 minutes in- drums come belting in, the guitars hit 'overdrive' and the repetetive sample blares in the background. Enter the squealy noises of computers and various other bits of machinery, and you have one of the best singles released last year that actually charted (peaked at no.22) 'Soul Auctioneer' is the laid back, but still rather sinister song, with guest vocals from Primal Scream mainman Bobby Gillespie- hypnotic and addictve, it dazzles and shines as one of the best songs on the album. For a 'Dance Act', they don't do many dance tunes, which is a good thing... 'Death Threat' is a rollocking great raucus noise fest of a tune. It's slow, steady beat pounds away while the guitars squeal with feedback and the riff gets edgier and dirtier as the song progresses. In a word- good. 'Flying' is again, a hypnotic, tripped out mess of a tune, but a good mess- a glorious mess. Its solid drumming and catchy guitars enchant you, and then kick in later on- brilliant. The bass line pounds away, and the patented squealy noises are back doing what they do best- being squealy and sounding cool. 'Aisha' is an epitaph to serial killers worldwide ("And i think y ou ought to know/ i'm a murderer"). Features some vocals and dog howling (i'm not joking) from godfather of punk himself mr. Iggy Pop. The tune itslef is a fast paced monster with some heavy duty rock riffola which would make Slash jealous. Released also as a single, this time peaking at no. 10, it increased awareness of this magnificent tune and gave Death In Vegas' careers as a commercially known act a shot in the arm. 'Lever Street' is the hangover tune- Piercing organs and jingly jangly guitars pulsate through you, and thank the good dude upstairs for some time alone. It's a sweet little tune, but not as addictive or as simply brilliant as say 'Dirge' or 'Aisha', but not without its charms. Mellow. 'Aladdin's Story' comes up next, and what a gorgeous little number this is- jingly jangly guitars, jazz- esque trumpets wail in the background, and some more piercing organs give the beat something to work with. Beautiful with a capital Beau. More upbeat and lively than 'Lever Street', yet more laid back and mellowed than 'Aisha'. Just right.... 'Broken Little Sister' is, in my view, the weakest on the record. It's basically just 5 minutes of a humming computer- esque noise, with some guitar bashing and crazy feedback all permeating the humming. Nice vocal though. 'Neptune City' is a worthy song to finish the album- cool little sitar style riff and some gradually bashing drums all combine with some trumpets, organs, guitars and pounding bass. A bit like Death In Vegas doing their Chemical Brothers impression (it's fairly similar to 'Sunshine Underground' from 1999's 'Surrender'), but doing it very well indeed. Right, where's that repeat button..... It's dark in places, gorgeous in others, but it's always well worth investigating-- it's probably one of the best albums of last year, and you need to hear Iggy Pop squeal like a dog, it's so funny....
One day in late 1999 I was sitting drinking in a bar in Manchester with a group of friends when the NME Carling Tour came rolling in, promoting an ‘up-and-coming’ band called Death in Vegas. We were all ignorant of the band, and largely due to consuming a stupid amount of free Carling at the event, spent the next hour attempting to humiliate the band with inane questions during a public question and answer session with them. At the end of the Q and A, band member Richard Fearless came over to out table to tell us that he was putting us on the guest-list for their gig that evening so that we could see what they were really like. We took him up on this offer, and very sceptically turned up at the event. By the end of the night we were knocking on their dressing room door to apologise for our behaviour at the Q and A, and I bought ‘The Continuo Sessions’ on the very next day. This album was released fairly quietly, but its popularity has grown immensely since 1999, as it has been critically acclaimed time and time again. There are countless influences that can be picked up on in ‘The Continuo Sessions’ and it caters for followers from a range of genres. It’s very hard to classify this record. It could be dance – you can certainly dance to it. Or is it rock? There’s plenty to mosh here too. And it even falls into a certain branch of the indie category, as amply-fringed public schoolboys can sit around in their corduroy admiring the talents of the band’s duo Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes. From opening track ‘Dirge’ through mid-point ‘Aisha’ and onto final piece ‘Neptune City’ the record presents basis motifs which are all built into gargantuan tracks which are all extraordinarily compulsive. Aside from Fearless and Holmes, a wealth of auxiliary musicians are employed on this album, and there were no fewer than nine people on stage when I saw them play live. There’s so much going on in each of these nine tracks that it’s impossible to attempt to describe any one of them in detail, and you pick up new nuances of this record every time you play it. With a bit of luck and media exposure, Death in Vegas are heading on a route for success, and the fact that three major musicians agreed to add their input onto tracks on ‘The Continuo Sessions’ is testament to the fact that they might just be going somewhere. Dot Allison’s minimalist vocals on ‘Dirge’ make for the perfect start to this album, where her ghost-like additions kickstart the record with an ethereal tone whilst Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie works wonders on ‘Soul auctioneer.’ The stand-out track on this album is without doubt ‘Aisha’ which wouldn’t be the marvel that it is without the unique talents of punk’s grandaddy Iggy Pop. “Aisha, I’m confused…I’m vibrating” Pop yells during the track’s raging climax as all hell breaks loose in this six-minute wonder. Aside from these celebrity tracks, there are plenty of other high points on ‘The Continuo Sessions’ whether it’s the groovy madness that is ‘Flying’ the Hammond and guitar melodies on ‘Lever Street’ or the almost religious contribution from the London Community Gospel Choir on ‘Aladdin’s Story’ this album has much to recommend on it. Death in Vegas are one of those bands who are going to improve in time, and if there third album is an obvious progression from ‘The Continuo Sessions’ it should be breathtaking. I eagerly await its release and urge anybody who hasn’t heard this album to give it a try at the next available opportunity. This is a remarkable album, and a treasured part of my record collection. And all because I was a little tipsy one day in a M ancunian pub…
Riding on the back some impressive critical reactions, I went out and bought this album without even hearing a single track. I always find this exciting, as you never really know what to expect when the laser hits the groove. More often than not if there is a common consensus that an album is quality it's worth taking the risk. The album opens with the impressive desert drawl 'Dirge', which has a hypnotic groove generated by the sweetest guitar strum and cowgirl vocals by the divine Dot Allison. Every smoke filled indie dive should have it on its pre-gig playlist. There is sublime Orbital leanings on 'Flying', all oblique synth moments on a bed of crispy fresh guitars. This music is so dead cool and unassuming you could be forgiven for thinking the heavens had opened up and given us a taste of what's going on, on the great turntable in the sky. If you were to try and categorise their music Death In Vegas could be neatly positioned beside Primal Scream. The fact that Bobby Gillespie guest vocals on 'Soul Auctioneer' only proves that there is a mutual admiration society going on between the 2 bands. It's just a pity Sir Bob had to pick such a weak track to add his tuppence worth. It is just the right side of dull but is as forgettable as an ageing goldfish. The celebrity love-in continues with 'Aisha' sung by Iggy Pop. It has all the ingredients of a wild, dirty weekend and is positively menacing. But then, that wallowing far-eastern snake charmer sound finds an extra gear to lift the mix to the next level and suddenly everything makes sense. Enthralling is hardly descriptive enough. Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain also lends a hand on vocals on ‘Broken Little Sister' which is similar to those impressive J & MC's slow burners of old. To say Richard Fearless is well connected would be a gross understatement. There is a brilliant summer breeze ditty called 'A laddin's Story' in the middle of the album. It is a straight down the line near instrumental that provides a little light relief after the previous tracks which are a little uncompromising. Also easy on the ear is the Velvet Underground/Clinic fused 'Neptune City'. A psychedelic trip that oozes class. The Contino Sessions is the soundtrack to the coolest lounge Bar around. It is mature electronica which would suit those not out for an immediate aural fix. Those who flash 'Tune' placards over their fluorescent heads will be sorely disappointed. Those enamoured with Screamadelica type indie-dance crossovers will be more than satisfied. Death in Vegas are a great addition to an underground music scene that is thankfully beginning to flourish again.
Another album of this superb quality would be brilliant, thankyou very much Mr. Fearless! To confess, before I bought this album I had heard very little DiV material, apart from the brilliant 'Dirge' which I heard in the middle of the night on the Breezeblock on Radio1, but from that moment I was converted. The album is so diverse yet so consistent in its own unique way- all the songs are amazing, yet no 2 of them are overly similar. My favourite track is 'Aisha'- a brilliant collaboration with Iggy Pop, featuring strident beats and vocal with that unique electronic accompaniment- telling its own story about a serial killer/madness. This would be closely followed by 'Death Threat'- the electronic textures created are amazing and incredibly atmospheric, in a way almost like a classical 'tone-poem' in its level of intensity. This album should be a lesson to other producers/writers in how things should be done. In my opinion its flawless and just the right length- accessible and intense- perfect.
Death In Vegas' s first album Dead Elvis was a mixed bag of styles. With music ranging from dance to dub to hard edged rock. The Contino Sessions sees Death in Vegas working around a more focussed sound, a dark psychedelic music closer to the sound of sixties proto-punk bands like MC5 and The Stooges and the Seventies Kraut rock bands like Can than the big beat/electronica scene that they had been previously associated with. (Mainly due to Richard Fearless' DJing at the legendary Heavenly Social). Richard Fearless has moved Death in Vegas's sound in a more concentrated direction. This works as the Contino Sessions comes across as stronger album than Dead Elvis. The album kicks off in fine form, with the aptly name Dirge, where the sound of a wall of guitars meetings the angelic voice of Dot Allison. The simple La.la, la refrain of the song maybe simple but the effect is stunning and also unnerving at the same time. The next track Death Threat maintains the feeling of foreboding and dark nature of the album. It is the track Aisha penned with Iggy Pop that really shows the new direction that Death in Vegas has moved in. It's combination of pure rock and roll dynamic and Iggy's serial killer narrative, prove that Death In Vegas are a greater rock band and many of the contemporary rock bands out there. The Contino Sessions is however not just about pure rock n' roll blowout. Tracks like Neptune City and Flying have a more spatial feel, recalling the best dub and krautrock mixed with the later sounds of post rock. These tracks prove that Fearless can produce music than is higher inventive and experimental without coming across as contrived are deliberately avant-garde and humourless. The Contino sessions is a must have purchase for anyone interested in hearing the outer limits of contemporary rock. A truly unique album for produced by an outstanding talent.
So the follow-up to Dead Elvis, and having heard some of the tracks live, I had to give this a go. Live DIV are a swirling cacophony of noise, and I didn't know if this would translate to CD. Well from the first bars of Dirge I knew it had. A lot of the tracks simply build on a riff and a sample, into a wall of sound. And Dirge sets the tone perfectly. It's female siren-like vocal may be repetitive, but it hooks and has you humming it after no time! The various collaborations with Iggy Pop, Bobby Gillespie etc work well, my fave is the Dot Allison track, which seems to build forever until the "Nobody Knows the trouble.." vocal drops. Brilliant. I quote these tracks, but it's just a great album. No average tracks, and it gells too. Contino has less variety than Dead Elvis, but that's cos DIV have found their sound. I love it!!
Doctor Frankenstein-like Richard Fearless and his Igor Tim Holmes have created a monster. The Contino Session, Death in Vegas second LP, certainly has the aura of a stormy genesis in some mountaintop castle. Gothic guitars grind whilst moody organ prowls throughout the tracks, as each nightmare musicbox piece unwinds. Basically, it couldn't be much more removed from the Dubby big beat of their first LP. Several tracks feature guest vocalists, including Bobby G on the edgy trip hop of Soul Auctioneer, and notably the mighty Iggy Pop on Aisha. Aisha is just brilliant; Iggy growls and screams about being stalked by a serial killer, over a tightly wound guitar groove and thudding beat. This fusion between dance repetition and rock instrumentation works superbly and is strongly reminiscant of early Velvet Underground and Krautrock. The instrumentals also benefit from this approach, including Flying and Dirge. Flying is an effortlessly evocatative glide that builds up gradually into an all out synth assault. Dirge though, is just amazing; the song builds up piece by piece, starting with just the bassline and Dot Allison's disembodied voice. By the end, it has built into a collossal wall of sound, pounding at the speakers with its intensity. Elsewhere, the London Community Gospel Choir drop in to provide heavenly vocals for the gorgeously guitar inflected Alladin's Story. This song evokes a feeling of drained world weariness, fading out to the couplet "Nobody knows the troubles I've seen/nobody knows the sorrows". This leads into Jim Reid collaberation Broken Little Sister, a 5 minute feedback savaging that sounds rather a lot like his old band, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Luckily, the final instrumental Neptune City kicks in just in time to sooth your battered nerves. It's a heck of a ride. Tellingly, the album has become a favourite of a friend of the band for her own sessions. Her profession? Fittingly, giv en the darkand seedy atmosphere of the record, she's a dominatrix .
This album has been hailed by the NME as a work of genius. That may be true - judging from Death In Vegas' previous effort, Dead Elvis, they do indeed have a smattering of genius. But that isn't so evident here, where the songs, while intense, brooding and interesting, sometimes have a tendency to go on a bit. I was initially disappointed with the Contino Sessions, and unfortunately, I have remained so. Aisha and Flying almost managed to change my mind, as they make an effort to really impress, but as far as Death In Vegas go, I'll be sticking to listening to Dead Elvis for the time being.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Dirge (Feat. Dot Allison)
2 Soul Auctioneer (Feat. Bobby Gillespie)
3 Death Threat
5 Aisha (Feat. Iggy Pop)
6 Lever Street
7 Aladdin's story
8 Broken Little Sister (Feat. Jim Reid)
9 Neptune City